Three Facts about Opera that Might Surprise You

Opera is fascinating but can be a bit mysterious to those who are new to it. Basically, operas tell stories through song. But what’s unique about opera singing?

Well, opera singers are trained to be able to perform in large theaters, without microphones, and to be heard and understood clearly over the orchestra. Opera is actually considered the most difficult genre of music to sing.

So let’s get more acquainted with opera. Here are three opera facts that might surprise you … even if you aren’t a newbie.

  1. We know that opera singing is demanding, but what about conducting? Well, two conductors have actually died during performances of Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner. Both Felix Mottl and Joseph Keilberth suffered heart attacks at the same point in the performance!
  2. Although many opera stories are associated with love and loss, they’re not all so romantic. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a short opera about a woman trying to overcome a coffee addiction, of all things. Apparently he drank of up 30 cups a day of the stuff himself. Check out the final chorus of “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht” here.
  3. The diva’s song from the 1997 film “The Fifth Element” was written to be impossible to sing. But composer Eric Serra hadn’t worked with opera singers before. “I thought that only 60% of the song was actually possible to sing,” he said in an interview. But Inva Mula, who voiced the song in the movie, nailed 85% of what Serra thought would be impossible. Check out the movie version here (in which the vocals are sampled and/or slightly edited) or an impressive and fully human performance by Jane Zhang here.